Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I Could Get a Gun

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) These...
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) These dogs are wearing H-back freight harnesses. Photo from 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



I could get a gun.

If I wanted to join a shooting club. 

I would have to apply for it, take a test, wait a while and there are stringent laws about storing weapons, but still, if I was so inclined, as a law abiding Canadian citizen, I could become a gun owner.

If I wasn't a law abiding Canadian, but  a member of the criminal world, I guess I could go downtown and buy a gun on the street.

 But, in general, Canadians don't want to be gun owners.

 So why the big difference between us and our BFF the Americans?

I mean we are small in population, sitting next to their massive, militaristic country that has invaded us once already. 

Why aren't we armed to the teeth?

 One explanation that has come up in my recent conversations with people, is that we always had the British army here keeping the peace in pre-Confederation days and behaving ourselves just became our norm.

Of course they weren't here to keep the peace, they were here protecting British interests, but law and order was a natural side bar activity.

And shortly after Confederation arrived in 1867 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, (Northwest Mounted Police in those days), with their red jackets so reminiscent of the British army, was established by an act of parliament.

 And if you are in any doubt about how they affected our Canadian identity, you must read some of the stories about the Yukon Gold Rush in 1898. 

Like a lot of the American west, Alaska was a crime ridden, death zone for the gold seekers, but when they reached the Canadian border at the top of the Chilcoot Pass they were met by Sam Steele of the NWMP. 

He and his small band of Mounties ensured the law was obeyed on this side of the border.

 The upshot of this is that we never developed a fear of other Canadians,
the way the Americans seem to fear each other.

And apparently we don't fear them either,

although I must say,
shopping stateside has become less appealing recently.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Santa is Canadian

Naturally because of our politeness, we do share him

- but only if you've been good!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Welcoming the Christmas Baby

English: One of the corridors on the lower lev...
English: One of the corridors on the lower level of the cloister with statues of the God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the Viceregal Museum in Zinacantepec, Mexico State (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my small Muslim students once told me, (with great amusement), that God has no relatives.


The Christian God is a Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, (aka Wisdom or Sophia).

God's human relatives are Mary, the Mother of God, Joseph who would be, (and this is the only palatable relationship), God's step-father and if you happen to be Protestant then the siblings of Jesus would be God's half brothers and sisters.

And of course there were probably cousins of God.

That's quite a gang around the cosmic dinner table

and I had never seen it through someone else's eyes until that moment.

How absurd Christianity must seem to non-Christians.
Especially to the children.

I threw back my head and laughed until the tears came.


I believe there are many good paths that one can follow in this life

(speaking of Christianity), 
there is one path that begins next week -
in the darkest, coldest, dead of winter.

The birth of a child.

A child who comes every year
and brings light and renewed hope to our deeply troubled world


and I hope that no matter what your path is,
or how strange it may seem,
that you take time this week

to welcome Him.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Blood of Lambs

Wiltipoll ewes and lambs.
Wiltipoll ewes and lambs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was living in Montreal when Marc Lapine shot and killed 14 female engineering students.

I remember how it was the next day.

Women were looking at each other.
Really looking.

Connecting without speaking.

We are still here.  Life will go on.

Today I haven't been able to stop looking at little kids.

And yes there is some comfort that the ones I see are still here
and life will go on,

but the slaughter of lambs yesterday

marked the end of the world as we knew it.

The Mayans were right.

Enhanced by ZemantaMy deepest sympathy goes out to the families, the community, and the American people.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Busy! Busy!

I've been watching this one little pansy for ages.

It has hung on, all alone for months now. 

As happy in the snow as in the hot summer sun.

Which seems forever ago.

I've been looking for a cartoon that made a joke about being busy at Christmas

but maybe this is better.  


Brave little flower ...

Sorry I've had to catch up on your blogs everybody.

I've been fricken BUSY!!!!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beaver Wars

English: An Iroquois longhouse.
English: An Iroquois longhouse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Iroquois lived in the area that had the St. Lawrence as its northern
From there they spread south throughout what we would

identify today as New England.

Although not exactly happy with the arrival of smelly, hairy white people
they took advantage of the opportunity to obtain the interesting new

goods that the fur trade brought them.

Unfortunately the smelly, hairy people also brought guns which the
Iroquois quickly learned  to use and soon beavers were in short supply.

So the Iroquois started to look north at land along the
St. Lawrence River where their traditional enemy the

Huron tribe lived.

The Hurons were, if you remember, allied with the French.

They were also vulnerable because in 1639 a small pox epidemic
had killed at least half of them.

And pretty much the rest of them were gone after the Mohawk and other

Iroquois tribes got through with them.

Leery of the Iroquois, the French then started doing business with the

Algonquian speaking tribes - the Cree, the Mi'kmaq, etc. 

Fearful for their own survival and angry at the loss of this potential market
the Iroquois started to attack the French settlers.

This is the time of the horrific Indian raids which included scalping and killing
the men and carrying off the women and children.

Things got so bad that eventually the King of France sent in the troops
and the Iroquois decided to negotiate a peace.

And that is where we are as the 17th century ends.

The English* are in New England, the French are in New France
and the Iroquois are in the land between them.


Like this is going to last.



New England was settled mostly by Puritans and Pilgrims who left England after the English civil war in order to find a safe place to practise their faith.


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Friday, November 30, 2012

French Kissed

French map of Acadia (now Nova Scotia)
French map of Acadia (now Nova Scotia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 While the French were chasing our beavers, the English,

the Scots and even the Dutch were starting to cast lustful eyes at our fish.

And because it teemed with beavers and fish, everybody was
suddenly hot for the area we would now loosely identify as Nova Scotia.

Settled by the French in the early 1600s it was called Acadia. 

It actually became a Scottish settlement for awhile after 1621. 

And that excited the British no end and got them so puffed up
with testosterone that they sailed down the St. Lawrence in 1629
and captured Quebec City.

Stiff upper lips must have twitched three years later at the end
of the 30 years war when Quebec and Acadia were returned to France.

Fish, meanwhile, had become the Prince William/Kate Middleton
of the late 17th century.

Nobody could get enough of them.

And nobody wanted to share. 

With noses severely out of joint over fishing rights taken by the Acadians,
a military contingent from New England, marched north and took Acadia once
more for the English king in 1690.

But the British couldn't seem to win.

Acadia was returned to France again seven years later at the end of another

one of Europe's endless wars.

But by then it was the beginning of the 18th century.

(insert rousing chorus of Rule Britannia)

And the tide was about to turn.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Big Trouble at the Fort

English: Historic HBC buildings and cemetery i...
English: Historic HBC buildings and cemetery in Centennial Park, Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okey dokey. It's the middle of the 17th century.

France is involved in the 30 years war which continues to rage in Europe and not-so-jolly-old England is in the midst of a bloody civil war.
Meanwhile back at the ranch in North America things are progressing as if they can't hear the screams.


The French have become quite comfortable in their little love nest on the St. Lawrence and are now expanding south.
They reach the Mississippi about 1682 and claim it for France.

The rescals also venture north into territory claimed by the English king, (before his own people cut his head off).

And even though the Brits had kept it hidden for so long Radison and Grossliers found Hudson's Bay in 1661.

So it shouldn't be a surprise,
(although I would have been surprised to see armed French troops marching across the tundra),
to learn that in 1686 they caught the British by surprise at the Moose Factory Hudson's Bay Trading Post.

And that day, my friends, when the English surrendered, was when the shit hit the Canadian fan, our troubles started.

This is the 6th blog in my series, 'Canadian history as I see it'.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Tweets From the British

Henry IV, King of France in Armour, c. 1610 (L...
Henry IV, King of France in Armour, c. 1610 (Louvre) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I've finished four small blogs on Canadian history and I'm embarrassed to tell you how much I don't know, or if I knew it once, how much I have forgotten.

The first thing I've been wondering about is the valiant British explorers that we learned about in elementary school. 

Where the heck are they? 

I remember thrilling to the exploits of Thompson, Mackenzie, Fraser, Vancouver, etc. - the giants who explored and mapped the North American continent.

But as I worked through the time period from 1497 to the mid 1600s I began to think they'd frozen their laptops in Hudson's Bay because I wasn't getting many tweets from them.

Then I began to suspect that the timeline I was using had a French bias so, although I had originally decided not to, I looked ahead.

And much to my embarrassment I learned that all of those explorers came much later, near the end of the 17th century and into the 18th century.

And once I had peeked ahead the second thought that has stayed with me was how much we, i.e., the English, the French, the Canadians, the Americans, are all interconnected.

Third, I have to warn you that the demise of the Indian nations is interwoven like a bloody thread all the way down our historical timeline.


Anyway things are about to heat up. 

The French King granted a North American fur trading monopoly to the French in 1600. 

The English have given up on finding a north-west passage, (for now), and their king has granted THEM a North American fur trading monopoly.

Uh oh ...

Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

David Niven and the Search for the North-west Passage

Cropped screenshot of David Niven from the tra...
Cropped screenshot of David Niven from the trailer for the film The Toast of New Orleans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although they were supposedly still looking for a route to the Orient by travelling down the St. Lawrence and into the Great Lakes, the truth is that the French were so enamoured of their new land that by 1611 the Jesuits had set up shop.

They were quickly followed by the first settlers.

Many babies later New France was thriving.


If the British were having sex and making babies in those days it wasn't happening in the New World.

They were too busy channeling their inner David Niven.

Against all odds, (and all reason), they continued to search for a north-west passage to China.


Talk about British bull doggedness in the face of impossible odds ...  


Anyway, while all of this activity was happening on our side of the ocean, Europe was self-destructing.

The 30 Years War, (1618-1648), which pitted Catholics against Protestants, raged on, with a particularly nasty stretch fought at sea after 1629 between Britain and France.

In 1631, when it was safe to venture out on the water again there were two more voyages to search for the north-west passage. 
They were so terrible that no more attempts were made for 100 years.

Britain had other royal fish to fry, er, behead anyway.




Enhanced by ZemantaThis is the 4th in my series of blogs called, 'Canadian history as I see it.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Father of Hundreds Takes 12 Year Old Bride

Samuel_de_Champlain (1567-1635), probably afte...
Samuel_de_Champlain (1567-1635), probably after a portrait by Moncornet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Samuel de Champlain was the Father of New France.

Figuratively speaking.

 Literally he never comingled with a female person to produce an offspring.

But he really did marry a twelve year old girl.

 When he was forty-three.


 She was very rich and her name was Hélène Boullé.

 He  managed to entice her to join him in the New world; even named Isle Ste Hélène in the St. Lawrence River for her.  

 But  Paris was evidently preferable to Quebec City in the early 1600s and it wasn't long before the lonely, pampered teenager returned home.

 Where she eventually joined a convent.


 Unlucky in love, Champlain didn't pick his friends wisely either.

 In 1616 he threw his lot in with the ill-fated Hurons who convinced him to support them in their war with the other Iroquois tribes.
And he pretty well cooked the French goose when he killed two Iroquois chiefs during one of his explorations to the Great Lakes while his men killed a third.

It seems the writing was already on the wall by then and it wasn't in English.


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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Martin Frobisher Had Cold Man Parts

English: Sir Martin Frobisher by Cornelis Kete...
English: Sir Martin Frobisher by Cornelis Ketel, circa 1577. Frobisher wears a jerkin closed only at the neck over a peascod-bellied doublet. Français : Martin Frobisher par Cornelis Ketel, vers 1577 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second in a series of blogs called, "Canadian History as I see it".
In the late 1500s the English and the French were obsessed with getting to the Orient by water to plunder, pillage and rape  trade for gold and spices. 

Unfortunately North America was in the way.

The difference seems to be that the French 'got' the new World long before the English did.

While Martin Frobisher and John Davis were freezing their man parts in the Arctic and looking for a north-west passage to Asia, the French were moving into the much more hospitable St. Lawrence Lowlands.

They were also starting to eyeball all of those sassy Canadian beavers.
They knew a good thing when they saw it.

 And so did their king.

In 1600 Henry IV of France granted the first North American fur trading monopoly and by 1608 Samuel de Champlain had founded Quebec City!


Meanwhile the Brits were still keeping their man parts on ice.

In 1610, Henry Hudson and his band of unmerry men sailed into the frigid waters of Hudsons Bay.

And as you know, Henry Hudson did not come sailing out again.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Cabot and Cartier, You Shoulda Tidied Up

Project.Flickr - Strangers up close - John Cabot
Project.Flickr - Strangers up close - John Cabot (Photo credit: Kieren P)

English Canada isn't 'English' the way French Canada is French and it never really was.

Even the first 'Anglo' who stepped ashore, i.e., John Cabot, was actually an Italian named Zuan Chabotto.

But the Italian House of Medici was more interested in having sex and making poison than in conquering new worlds so Cabot claimed Newfoundland and/or Cape Breton Island for Henry VII of England on June 24, 1497.

Thirty-seven years after Cabot disappeared, probably somewhere in the mid Atlantic, Jacques Cartier swanned into town and rudely claimed the New World for France without even a tip of his chapeau to England.

 Arrogant French Johnny-Come-Latelies?

 Disinterested, slow-to-recognize-a-good-thing-when-they-see-it English?

It doesn't matter now. 

The French and the English went home long ago.

But, boy, did they leave a mess behind them!




In this series of blogs I want to take a look at the struggle that went into building this big, beautiful, ungainly, polite, self-destructive, honourable, loyal, courageous, sparsely populated, welcoming, unwelcoming, unique, (feel free to add your own adjectives), country called Canada. 

I have no plans or timeline, (bloggers are so free), it will just be a commentary on our history the way I see it and I guess it will appear when I feel like it. 












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